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31 December 2013

At www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/.premium-1.565559 … there is a review by Dalia Karpel (Dec 28th, 2013) of a book on Velikovsky by Michael Gordin, a professor at Princetown who specialises in Russian history and the history of modern physical sciences, 'The Pseudo-Science Wars: Immanuel Velikovsky and the Birth of the Modern Fringe' University of Chicago Press:2012. Other reviews of Gordin's book have been around but these have concentrated on taking onboard criticism aimed at Velikovsky whereas this review seeks to be more broadminded and is therefore worthy of the read.

Velikovsky claimed natural disasters and collisions between planets (missing out the important word 'near') shaped the history of the Earth and the course of life on the planet. He maintained the 3 day plagues of darkness as described in Exodus (and in Egyptian sources?) were caused by a comet passing close to Earth which altered the orbit and axial incline, and so on. Powerful earthquakes were the explanation for some of the detail in Psalms … and so on.

His antagonists, she says, did not like the idea of bringing together religion and science, as if there was a thread that connected both. Many regarded him as a charlaton – but others viewed him as a legitimate scientist with an enquiring mind. The SIS was founded in order to explore his ideas – to see if they had any validity.

The reviewer claims Gordin has treated Velikovsky fairly – which is not the impression you get from some other reviews of the book. In that respect we may note Gordin has gone into the character and life of Velikovsky in great detail, and the author has clearly found the man interesting. Gordin was interested in Velikovsky as the outsider, why he gained a populist following, and why the science community ganged up on him – and still do. Gordin is a historian and makes a point in his book not to evaluate the physics, astronomy, or the geology etc. He does say that modern consensus in mainstream nowadays overwhelmingly is against the Velikovsky scenario – but they would be, would'nt they?

The link to the review of the book was sent in by Ralph Amelan, one of the early SIS membership.

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